Whether it be heading off to college, a gap year, or entering into the workforce, once our kids reach the age of eighteen, they enter the world as “adults” and are no longer legal minors. We can only hope that we have fully prepared our children for what lies ahead, however there is always the situation wherein we need to act on their behalf. Unfortunately, your ability to help is no longer automatic, and without proper written consent, you can no longer make decisions for them. For this reason, parents and young adults should complete three crucial documents:
Power of Attorney:
While they still may depend on you financially, Mom and Dad are no longer able to make financial decisions for adult children, even in an emergency. For this reason, a Power of Attorney is critical. This document provides the parent with the authority to sign documents and manage financial affairs on a child’s behalf. Your child becomes the principle, and you are their agent. You can make the power of attorney effective immediately, or upon a determination of incompetency. It can also be drafted with limited or extended authority to act. This is an especially useful tool when your child is attending college because even though you are paying the tuition, the school contract is between the university and the student. Having this document in place will not only provide easy management of affairs at home, but also allow you to order academic transcripts or sign a lease on your student’s behalf.
Health Care Proxy:
Accidents happen and the risk for young adults is higher than any other age group, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A health care proxy will allow a parent to make medical decisions on behalf of a child who is unable to do so. Without a valid proxy, you may be forced to go to Court in order to obtain authority to make decisions regarding a medical treatment plan or life-prolonging treatment. Don’t wait until a critical moment to find out that you are precluded from speaking with your child’s doctor or making an urgent decision.
HIPAA Release and Authorization:
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act dictates who can and cannot receive medical information about a patient. Unfortunately, once your child reaches the age of majority, the HIPAA Act becomes effective and health care providers and hospitals are legally prohibited from releasing medical information to you. A HIPAA Authorization signed by your adult child will give authorization to the relevant medical facility or health care provider to share medical information with you (and any other identified family members).
So when you are shopping for extra-long twin sheets, work attire, or mini-fridges, don’t forget to add “completion of important documents” to your list of things to do. It can save you time and money. More importantly, it will provide you with peace of mind knowing that you can be there for your child in the event of an emergency. Call our office to schedule an appointment before your child leaves the nest this September.
Founded by a nurse attorney and with offices in Acton and Sudbury, Massachusetts, Generations Law Group helps families navigate the complex areas of estate planning, elder law, and probate to inform and protect loved ones of every generation.
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